Kinetic Mapping in Geneva

Mapping Festival 2016 in Geneva has once again exuded a refreshing, pioneering spirit with kinetic installations deconstructing space, a wealth of interactive workshops and an incandescent live AV performance.

If you carefully observe the participants of the “Sound Spatialisation in Immersive Virtual Reality Environments” workshop gesticulate with their Kinect sensors and their Oculus Rift headsets in the middle of the ground floor of the Contemporary Art Building (BAC) in Geneva, the hub of the Mapping Festival, the issue of sound and movement is clearly key to this 2016 festival.

This year once again the usual workshops at this digital event in Geneva cast a wide net, alongside multiple conferences and master classes, in the wake of new creative technology (introduction to deep web navigation, control strategies for complex multimedia systems, construction of mobile robots with the help of a robotics kit and micro-servo motors, production of videos and graphic animation –with Germans from Pfadfinderei). Yet this kinetic slant was particularly on the pulse, like the festival poster with its very eye-catching evocative lettering, triple overlapping characters, exercising syntactic blurring.

Visual distortion by Kimchi & Chips

As confirmation of the apparent reference to this major optical art trend, based on the modification of forms or perception of a device depending on the physical movement of the piece in question or the mobility of the spectator viewing it, it sufficed visiting the exhibition part of the festival on the upper level.

Event Horizon,  Lawrence et Vincent Malstaf

This importance of the phenomenon of perception was prevalent in the environmental piece Event Horizon by the Belgian artists Lawrence and Vincent Malstaf, where dust particles appeared suspended in a ray of light sweeping across the dark space with the public observing the convolutions wearing a gas mask (dispensable). It was even more apparent in the piece Kineptosia by the duo Kimchi & Chips

Mapping Festival 2016 kimchi and chips
Kineptosia,Kimchi & Chips

This creative studio based in Seoul, composed of the British artist Elliot Woods and South Korean Mimi Son, enjoys juxtaposing different forms of mechanisms and artistic paradigms. In this case, Kineptosia offers an astonishing visualisation of the encounter between mobile and immobile, through an extended graphical and static display on which a mechanized system of lenses in the form of tubes slowly moves, creating both a surprising visual distortion and an expression of indisputably kinetic, uncanny movement–just a shame that the piece was presented horizontally and not vertically, which would have magnified the effect of visual perspective.

Martin Messier’s sound decompositions

Sound, another essential element, was a driving force in other exhibition pieces. Pii, by the Spanish artist Néstor Lizalde, is an eye-opening kinetic sculpture par excellence. Its fifteen compartments with alternative light-scanning effects in a depth achieved by a system of light matrices and mirrors, is also based on a sensor system creating a sound and light work that interacts with the public.

 Pii, Néstor Lizalde

Based on the same principle of perceptive development, but this time inviting the public to directly integrate the performance space–in this case a closed box with walls/reflective mirrors on which different hypnotic visual loops were projected –Infinity Room by the Turkish artist Refik Anadol connected visual experimentation and sensory experience in a single architectural combination reminiscent for many of the work on optical instability by Yayoi Kusama. This deconstruction of space deserves further transgression to reach its full potential.

Infinity Room - [TIEE] from Refik Anadol 

In this exercise in decomposition, the best was the impressive Boîte Noire (Black Box) device by Martin Messier. This artist from Quebec translates a beam of light, projected into a large transparent prism, into sounds and movements. The resulting data is three-dimensional.

Mapping Festival Martin Messier Boite noire
Boïte Noire, Martin Messier

Apart from the efficient retranslation of the data in real time from the light spectrum, the materialisation of its sweeping and fluid contractions, of these curves and outlines surging and disappearing in a spectral show taking shape behind a glazed façade is literally astounding. This mesmerizing show reflects the visual ambition of the festival as well as its very nature, blending new technology and do-it-yourself coding plus DIY/lo-fi with disconcerting accessibility.

Nous Sommes les Fils et les Filles de l’Électricité, Projet EVA

Live audiovisual experimentation

On that note, vibrant creativity featured significantly on the programme. The Montrealers behind Projet Eva arrived at the experimental Cinéma Spoutnik with their cameras/masks for their participatory show evoking psychological manipulation Nous Sommes les Fils et les Filles de l’Électricité (NSFFDE).

PROJET EVA - Nous sommes les fils et les filles de l'électricité from stereolux 

To conclude the festival, the same venue also hosted the experimental live electronic and film session Goûter Merveilleux: a slightly off-the-wall show where it was possible to enjoy Pylone’s excellent live analog ambient, based on a montage of images drawn from the classics Blow Up and Zabriskie Point by Michelangelo Antonioni –it should be pointed out that the original music was written by Herbie Hancock and Pink Floyd.

This instant live dimension – still perceptible on the lively dance floor in the adjacent room at Le Zoo de L’Usine for electro/dub and techno nights predominantly featuring Shackleton, Deadbeat, Jerôme Soudan/Mimetic and above all the German duo Orphx from the label Hands –had a particular AV focus during the special evening at the Théâtre de L’Alhambra. 
In addition to the successful performance of Seismik by Herman Kolgen, with very impressive and frontal modelling of geo-seismic sources captured in real time and translated into just as dislocated and unpredictable audiovisual formats, the new creation Nøtel by the German multimedia artist Lawrence Lek and the British dubstep pioneer Kode 9 were on offer. It takes place within minimal decor, a cross between Second Life graphic design and a cheap video game engine, devoid of any form of avatar – only the screens dispersed in this dead hotel offered any semblance of human presence – Nøtel follows a drone through unchanging decor.

Trailer for The Nøtel: Third Ear Transmission feat. The Spaceape - Kode9 x Lawrence Lek

Kode 9 Lawrence Lek Notel Mapping Festival

Not particularly exciting, but sufficiently neutral so as not to subvert the excellent soundtrack by Kode 9, a blend of UK funk, oriental-style techno and spiralling vocals with a footwork heavy set. 
As such, the big surprise of the evening turned out to be the short but incandescent performance by the Dutch duo Gerd-Jan Prins and Martijn van Boven whose Black Smoking Mirror literally set fire to the screen by manipulating a laser on an inflammable projection surface.

Black Smoking Mirror, Gerd-Jan Prins et Martijn van Boven 

A radical experiment as much in terms of the heavily industrialised and frequency sound field used, as in its symbolically nihilistic and pioneering finale, an excellent way to sum up the rebellious spirit Mapping Festival.

Laurent Catala


Mapping Festival
from 28th April to 8th May

Digitalarti Media is partner of the Mapping Festival




Green fingers: digital and botanical art (1/2)

Artistic practices involving video, robotics and biotechnology have complete